Central America:
New opportunities for returning migrants

Central America is currently enduring one of the greatest humanitarian crises in its history: thousands are fleeing poverty, violence, and lack of opportunity and migrating north. At the same time, in 2020 more than 90,000 returned to their countries of origin from the United States and Mexico, and many more had been deported. Since 2016, Swisscontact has been implementing the Nuevas Opportunidades (“New Opportunities”) project for the economic and social reintegration of these returnees.

Following their return, migrants are often stigmatised, viewed by their countrymen as traitors or even criminals, regardless of whether their return was voluntary or forced. They experience difficulties reintegrating into the local labour market. Additionally, the skills they have acquired during their sojourn abroad are not officially recognised. What’s more, in growing economic sectors such as construction or tourism there is a lack of qualified labour. Local companies have recognised that they could benefit from returnees’ skills.

Qualification certificate as a key to the labour market

Certification of worker skills with hands-on work experience facilitates their reintegration into the economy and simultaneously covers the demand for qualified labour in new and growing sectors.

The fact that no system exists to certify qualifications and skills acquired abroad is one of the greatest impediments faced by returnees. For this reason, the project is focusing on certifying work experience that often results in their anticipated entry into the labour force. It is also in the interest of those companies that are supporting the project accordingly. They benefit as their new employees have brought back comprehensive knowledge of the North American economy, and this helps in enhancing their competitiveness. Moreover, the likelihood of these workers migrating once again is lower if they can find a job or open their own businesses.

Social integration for a better life

The stigmatisation they experience from society makes these people particularly vulnerable. For that reason, it is particularly important to strengthen their resilience and help them with the appropriate action. They should be empowered to take their economic and social reintegration into their own hands and play active roles in their communities. Various project initiatives support and strengthen their personal skills – for example, in the field of conflict management and resolution, or even in conduct and self-confidence.

Market access thanks to partnerships

Swisscontact has been working with the private sector in Central America for a long time in order to facilitate access to the market for people in precarious situations. This is done first of all through the promotion of technical education and training, and second through alliances with partners in the state and private sectors. Services encompass a broad spectrum of support measures and range from helping people find jobs to providing access to start-up capital or coaching, and all the way to consulting in establishing or expanding business models.




The Nuevas Opportunidades project has helped certify 417 returnees to El Salvador and Guatemala. This has facilitated reintegration into the labour market for 62% of certified migrants, helping them to increase their average monthly earnings from 260 to 875 U.S. dollars. Furthermore, it has enabled the founding of 44 businesses with an average monthly turnover of 950 U.S. dollars and 144 new jobs.

Financial Statement 2021
Results and Impact